US trade deficit widens 5.3 percent in April

US trade deficit widens 5.3 percent in April

Since January, total exports have fallen $39B, or 5.1 percent

NEW YORK (AA) – The U.S. trade deficit rose 5.3 percent in April, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The deficit of total goods and services was $37.4 billion, up $1.9 billion from the revised March figure of $35.5 billion. Analysts expected $41 billion.

Exports increased $2.6 billion from the previous month to $182.8 billion but imports rose $4.5 billion from March to $220.2 billion.

Since the beginning of the year, the trade deficit has decreased $8.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, compared to the same period last year.

Between January and April, total exports decreased $39 billion, or 5.1 percent, while imports fell $47.1 billion -- 5.1 percent from the same period a year ago.

On a positive note, the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in May, from 5 percent the previous month and recorded its lowest level in the last nine-and-a-half years, beating forecasts of 4.9 percent.

"Employment increased in health care. Mining continued to lose jobs, and employment in information decreased due to a strike," the Labor Department said.

The information sector was hit by a labor strike at telecommunications giant Verizon, which involved approximately 35,000 workers across the U.S.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by just 38,000 -- the lowest level since September 2010, according to the Labor Department. Analysts expected the economy to add 160,000 new jobs.

The weak jobs data could force the Federal Reserve to refrain from an interest rate hike decision in later this month and instead wait for July until conditions improve.

"This sudden weakness in payrolls could be enough to prompt the Fed to delay the next rate hike until September," Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to Anadolu Agency.

"A July hike is still possible, but it would require clear evidence of a rebound in June’s payroll figures," he added.

Markets will focus on Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech Monday looking for hints about the bank's rate decision on June 15.

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